Busy Volunteer Can't Say No to Varied Requests

By: Arkansas Democrat Gazette

As a volunteer, Rush Harding is a soft touch. And once involved in a project, he quickly becomes a facilitator.

"My favorite thing about volunteer work is, when people are having trouble getting something done, to step in and see it through... the satisfaction of getting something done."

Harding, a Clarendon native, showed determination early in life. "My other always said the best way to get something done is to tell Rush he can't do it and it'll get done," he said during an interview in his office at Crews & Associates investment firm, where he is a principal and executive vice president.

One recent source of satisfaction for Harding was the 1988 completion of the Child Development Center at First united Methodist Church. he and his wife, Linda, are chairmen of the Family Life Committee, which coordinates family events.

Harding is a board member of the center and was one of three directors of the fund-raiding drive to retire the church's debt on the center at Eighth and Spring streets.

Completed Project

"We set a top goal of $1.2 million," he says. The day-care center currently serves 250 children and can accommodate 303 children at full capacity.

"It's the largest single provider of daycare in one location in Arkansas and one of the largest in the South," Harding adds.

In the future, he says, the church plans to provide scholarships for children in the community.

Harding has a fondness for the underdog and as a soft touch came to the aid of Ballet Arkansas in its recent financial difficulties.

"People who know I work with the ballet think that's funny because I don't come across as artsy. The poor ballet always seems to be on its last leg and the ballet on its last leg and the ballet has always had problems being prudent with its finances. But we've paid all of our bills off and this is the first year we've finished in the black.

The whole organization has gone 180 degrees since I've been on the board. I didn't do it; I've just had a little bit of input. I'm real proud to be on the board."

When his three-year term is completed. Harding plans to stay on the ballet board or become a member of the advisory board.

Harding also has a soft place in his heart for the University of Central Arkansas at Conway, his alma mater. His wife and his parents also are graduates of the university. Almost immediately after graduation, Harding became involved as an active alumnus and is now a member of the UCA Foundation Board. He is also a member of the university's President's Club and the Purple Circle because of substantial donations.

"Now we're trying to raise $200,000 for the first Pi Kappa Alpha house. There's already one fraternity house built. We want to start building by September. We've already raised $75,000."

Since Harding has remained in contact with Clarendon residents, he has been made a charter member of the Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church. "I'm the only white member," he says proudly. "I was close to the black kids in my high school class."

Looking down the road, Harding says, "After we get the fraternity house build I want to do something at Wild wood and for Children's Hospital."

And when he goes home to his family - including Shayla, 7, Rush IV, 4, and Payne, 2 - Harding says, "I make my wife answer the phone at night when you get a deluge of calls because she can say 'no' better than I can.

"When people I care about ask me to do something I've never said 'no.'"

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